Planning for your resignation

Before you sign your hiring contract, make sure resignation terms are fair and reasonable

Batya Swift Yasgur MA, LMSW | April 8, 2015

When entering into a new contract with a hospital or medical group, most people hope to stay for two or three years—or beyond. But life holds plenty of surprises, and you may need to leave earlier than you planned. Before you sign the contract, make sure the terms for your potential resignation are fair and reasonable.

Typically, contracts stipulate that you need to give your employer advance written notice. But don’t take that for granted, advises Andrew Knoll MD, JD, a partner in the firm of Cohen, Compagni, Beckman, Appler, and Knoll PLLC in Syracuse, N.Y.

“I’ve had clients who have signed contracts with no mechanism to quit,” says Dr. Knoll. “If life takes them in another direction or they’re miserable in their job, they’re stuck.”


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What provision do you want to see? One is called “termination without cause.” Ending a contract without cause means that you are not leaving for reasons related to inappropriate conduct on your employer’s part. Contracts may require physicians to give as little as 30 days notice and as much as 180 days, but 90 to 120 days is the norm.

But simply having a termination without clause provision may not be enough, according to Chris Brown, JD, an attorney with the Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, Fla. “Make sure the notice period is equitable, meaning that the employer and the physician are required to give the same amount of notice.” If you have to give 90 days’ notice, ideally the hospital should also be required to give you 90 days’ notice if it intends to terminate your employment without cause.

But rarely will that be spelled out in a typical contract. Often, the hospital or medical group requires the physician to give 90 days’ notice (or even more), while setting out a reduced notice period for itself, Mr. Brown warns. “This puts the physician at a disadvantage.”

“This clause is negotiable,” he adds. “Don’t be afraid to ask for a more equitable arrangement or to reduce the amount of time required if you give notice.” You may not get a completely equitable arrangement, but you should be able close the gap between the hospital’s notice period and your own.

And if you’re relocating to your new position, it’s even more important to make sure employers give you plenty of notice if they decide to terminate without cause. The last thing you need is to uproot your life and move to a new community, then lose your job within two or three months.

If you’re relocating, ask the hospital or medical group to give you 180 days’ termination notice, or to write in the contract that the employer can’t terminate your employment without cause during the first year, says Dr. Knoll.

He also points out that the amount of time a hospital requires for giving notice is an important clue to the desirability of the position.

“Employers require advance notice of an employee’s resignation because it gives the employer the time needed to find a replacement,” he says. “So when the notice required by the hospital or medical group is longer than the standard 90 to 120 days, I start wondering if there is an issue in recruiting or keeping employees. Otherwise, why would they need such an unusually long period of time?”

His advice: Investigate these positions very carefully. Sometimes, a position is hard to fill because the hospital has bad winter weather, or it located in a dangerous neighborhood or in a remote rural region. But sometimes, it has more to do with the atmosphere or culture of the hospital or group. Look carefully before you leap.


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